Citizens demand transparency as local governments offer deals to win Amazon HQ2

WASHINGTON — Arlington County is still in the running to be selected as the home for Amazon’s second headquarters but it’s struggling with the issue of transparency — as are other parts of our region that are under consideration for the new headquarters.

Three of the 20 communities still in the running are in the Washington area: Northern Virginia, D.C. and Montgomery County, Maryland.

At the Arlington County Board meeting on March 17, citizens demanded to know what the county is offering Amazon as part of an economic incentives package in order to try and close the deal to have the business giant build its newest headquarters in their county.

Board Chair Katie Cristol said the board will tell the citizens — but she can’t right now.

“Consistent with our own practices and those of cities and states around the nation, Arlington and the neighboring jurisdictions in the Commonwealth don’t release the terms of a potential agreement with businesses during the site selection process,” Cristol said.

She added that the terms of any agreement will be subjected to a public hearing — which means public comment and board members will publicly vote on the deal if Arlington is selected.

Cristol told the citizens at the board meeting that it’s not a matter of whether the information will be released but rather when. She said even if the county is not selected as the next home for Amazon’s headquarters that the board is committed to releasing some of the details of what has been proposed “so that our citizens can decide for themselves.”

“We are all seeking to be good fiscally responsive stewards, responsible stewards of Arlington County,” Cristol said. 

She also said that transparency is incredibly important to the board.

Board member Erik Gutshall tried to assure citizens at the meeting that the board is working on their behalf and in their best interests.

He said that if the Amazon deal does happen, “there’s no chance that this board is going to approve any deal that is not a net win for all the people of Arlington.”

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